Where to shop in the capital

Shopping in Riyadh

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From ancient labyrinthine souqs to luxury malls and quirky boutiques, Riyadh sets the standard for a destination shopping city. The high-energy capital has a dizzying array of retail options on offer, and no trip is complete without exploring them.

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For an insight into Riyadh’s shopping roots, take a tour of the city’s most famous market.

Souq Al Zal, set in the historic enclave of Diriyah, has been open since 1901, and its sprawling network of oud-scented alleys is as evocative as ever.

The best time to come is at 6pm, when there are daily auctions of antiques, ceremonial swords and the geometric-patterned carpets that the souq is named after. On Fridays, crowds cluster in the central plaza for the halaj, the biggest auction of the week, when merchants auction their rarest and most precious goods, with visitors welcome to bid.

This isn’t the only market worth visiting. Taibah Souq in the north of the city sells everything from toys to thobes, but is best known for its glittering rows of gold and diamond shops.

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But Riyadh’s shopping scene is really about looking forward, as seen in its mammoth and futuristic malls. Offering the perfect hybrid of mainstream brands and luxe fashion, you can spend a full day browsing their stores, restaurants and entertainment options.

Many double as social gathering spaces, and others are worth visiting for their design alone - like Park Mall, with an IMAX cinema and arcade under its palm trees and wave-like glass roof, or open-air precinct The Zone. Here, the stores and restaurants are clustered around a main plaza, where you can sit and sip a coffee as the crowds bustle by.

The shopping center at the Kingdom Centre, with its glossy brand stores, is almost as impressive as the shiny skyscraper itself. The Centria Mall is another haute-luxe mall - and should be the first port of call for fashion mavens looking to browse high-end designer brands - but it’s also the home of some great food. The sushi at Yokari or the pizzas at Fiamma are as good as you’ll find anywhere in this shopaholic-friendly city.

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Concept stores add another facet to Riyadh’s retail landscape. Rubaiyat, at Stars Avenue Mall, is where you’ll find names from Emporio Armani to Elie Saab, as well as color-popping pieces from Jeddah designer Arwa Albanawi. Or the greyscale RUFF Boutique, where limited edition Yeezy trainers and classic Nike Air Jordans are presented like works of art among a greatest hits of global streetwear, as well as cult Saudi labels like Not Boring.

Mira Y Mano has more of a modern Saudi focus, specializing in ethically sourced womenswear. The impeccably curated collection includes statement abayas and kamaya wraps from local designer Maha Ghalayini, and bold heritage-inspired jewelry from young Jeddah designer Lillian Ismail.

Other stores are harder to pin down. Sum+Things is a high-ceilinged modern restaurant which fuses almost imperceptibly with a minimalist homeware concept store and library, while Personage is a creative concrete-walled store, with the sharpest local apparel, jewelry and perfumes on the first floor, and a cafe, lounge and exhibition spaces upstairs. Both act as further proof that whatever your style and niche, Riyadh has a retail option to match.

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